Amateur radio enthusiasts are called "hams" because that's nicer than referring to them as pigs.

Amateur radio enthusiasts are called "hams" because that's nicer than referring to them as pigs.

And yet, that's how the term originated, according to the website for the American Radio Relay League.

In the days before government-assigned bandwidths, amateur stations with powerful signals would sometimes block radio traffic from government and commercial operators, the website for the national association for amateur radio states. Frustrated commercial operators would refer to the interference by calling the amateurs "hams."

According to the website, "Amateurs, possibly unfamiliar with the real meaning of the term, picked it up and applied it to themselves. As the years advanced, the original meaning has completely disappeared."

Franklin County residents interested in joining the ranks of hams, and perhaps becoming an important part of the weather-spotter network in the region, have several opportunities coming up.

Amateur radio general class study sessions will be offered from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at the Karl Road Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 5590 Karl Road, with a second class set from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 21, at the Northern Lights Branch, 4093 Cleveland Ave.

Exams for those taking the classes at both sessions will be offered at 6:30 p.m. Monday, June 23, at the Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security office, 5300 Strawberry Farms Blvd.

Also on June 23 and also at Franklin County Emergency Management, a "Ham in a Day" class for amateur radio entry-level technicians is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The test for amateur radio technicians will also take place at 6:30 p.m.

The classes and study materials are free.

Westerville resident Bill Neill will lead all three classes. He said last week that those who pass the exams on June 23 will be officially licensed by as early as the following morning.

"Basically, the biggest moving force is going to be the Franklin County EMA and their community response team people," Neill said. "The last four or five years, we've been doing a lot of classes for them."

Neill, who has been a ham operator for the past 20 years, said amateur radio can be an inexpensive hobby. It can also be a very expensive one, he added.

"Amateur radio is like fishing," Neill said. "You go to Florida and you've got the kid with a bamboo pole. He's there for $5 in equipment. And then you see the guy with the $500,000 boat. Who's having more fun?"

A new amateur radio set can cost as little as $35 but some people have $250,000 or more invested in antennas and equipment, according to Neill.

More information about the courses is available by calling Neill at 614-726-5539 or emailing him at